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Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced today that in early 2012, it will begin offering EMV-enabled corporate credit cards to U.S. business customers who travel abroad. The EMV card standard, named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard and Visa), features cards with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect encrypted account data. The bank's card will use what is known as the chip-and-PIN version of the standard, which allows cardholders to make point-of-sale payments by passing their cards through chip-card readers and then entering a PIN.
With this new card offer, Bank of America Merrill Lynch joins other U.S.-based banks -- including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bank -- that are already offering EMV-enabled cards to some U.S. customers who travel abroad. The bank says that it's issuing these cards to U.S. corporate customers partly due to increased client demand; the new offering is also an extension of its rollout of chip-and-PIN technology to its corporate clients in Europe last year.
EMV technology is currently used throughout Europe and other parts of the world and has yet to see widespread use in the U.S., although Visa is aggressively pushing for U.S. adoption of the technology over the next four years. In a recent interview about EMV with Kevin Phalen, head of global card and comprehensive payables at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, he said that a U.S. rollout of EMV seems like a sensible next step. "We think that it is a natural evolution of the U.S. card market and one that will bring more global consistency," he says.